If you experience anxiety, is it because you’re not trusting God? This question drifts through the minds of many Christians, and the best place to turn for the answer is God’s word.
According to National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), anxiety disorders affect about 40 million American adults a year, causing them to feel filled with fearfulness and uncertainty for an extended period of time.
As a person who struggled with how to handle anxiety for many years, I can remember the fear of not knowing when or where it would strike; the sick stomach; loss of appetite; sleepless nights; attempts to avoid whatever could invoke it.
Nothing helped me overcome anxiety (meaning, not be overcome by it) until I gave up control, turned over my life to God and accepted Jesus Christ as my savior. It required complete trust, and I can only describe the change as “total.”
“Few souls understand what God would accomplish in them if they were to abandon themselves unreservedly to Him and if they were to allow His grace to mold them accordingly.”
–St. Ignatius Loyola
Does Anxiety Mean Not Trusting God?
In her post The Cause and Cure for Worry, bible scholar Joyce Meyer says that worry is the opposite of faith–it steals our peace, physically wears us out and can make us sick.
Worry is caused by not trusting God to take care of the various situations in our lives. Too often we trust our own abilities, believing that we can figure out how to take care of our own problems.
Before studying the bible, I didn’t know the security of God’s word and that He always keeps His promises. I didn’t know verses to pray in times of need and that I could choose, by faith, to trust His word and not the fearful thoughts.
This makes all the difference, because Jesus said we can’t serve two masters. We either choose to trust God’s truth in times of fear, or we choose to trust fear.
Do not tremble, do not be afraid. Did I not proclaim this and foretell it long ago? You are my witnesses. Is there any God besides me? No, there is no other Rock; I know not one.
— Isaiah 44:8
“‘Fear not’ is the most frequent command given in the Bible,” says Monica Reynolds, a Master of Divinity student at Wesley Theological Seminary. “Some estimates tell us that the Bible mentions fear, worry, or anxiety over 500 times.”
When anxiety looms, it can feel like a huge step to trust that God is mightier than what attacks us. Yet God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and self-discipline. (2 Tim 1:7)
“I believe that anxiety, or generalized fear, is probably the biggest detractor from many us reaching God’s purpose in our lives,” Reynolds adds.
Trusting God over Anxiety
When we feel the first flashes of anxiety, we can brace ourselves for disaster (no security), or we can take it as a sign to turn to God (security), believing Jesus’ promise: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Call it out!
Senior Pastor Deano Ishiki of Calvary Chapel San Mateo says that in our ‘fallen state’ (yes, even as Christ followers), God equips us with safety mechanisms that provide warning signals–such as anxiety–so that when dangers arise, we will turn once again unto His mercy seat.
He adds that in 1 John 4:18, God promises His “perfect love which casts out fear (and anxiety).”
This perspective on anxiety made me realize something: Anxiety may be a warning sign to turn to God, yet if we linger too long in it, we end up turning away from God and toward the anxiety. Battling anxiety and worry in faith means holding on to the truth, over and over again, however long the battle lasts. Sure, it may feel uncomfortable while it lasts, but we know there will be an end.
It’s not easy, especially in the midst of our worst anxiety, but we are told that the testing of our faith produces perseverance. (James 1:2-3)
“Understand that the enemy always fights the hardest when he knows you are closest to your breakthrough. He’d leave you alone if he thought you were going to live in mediocrity. If you keep pressing on toward your promise, through faith and patience, you will get there.”
If you’re reading this right now, feeling consumed by fear and dread, searching for answers, know that you are not alone. Our God saves.
“When I am afraid I will trust in you.”